Independence Day: We are nowhere there.
‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men- Frederick Douglass Fifty nine years is no joke. It is no laughing matter, and yet, it is difficult to positively celebrate Nigerian Independence day. My former boss posed this question on his page; can one truly love oneself while despising one’s country for its failings? It generated the following responses:
This is akin to the relationship with our parents: can one love oneself while despising one’s parents for their failings?
Another; that is a conundrum, who do you love more? Nigeria or Nigerians? One without the other is very difficult. Almost like choosing your favourite child amongst your children. There is definitely a dichotomy yet, how can one love one’s country and not like its people? The fact is, it is not a happy medium, no country is perfect but we are not comparing Nigeria, but what it is, is the state of inertia and lack of moral responsibility of the collective or commitment of Nigerians to improve the Nigeria/Nigerian condition.
So perhaps, sometimes it helps to cherry pick where necessary depending on a present situation whether it is good or bad. What cannot be denied, is the ever present lure of home and its people always and forever in our very being. That is true but it must not be confused at all. “I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me.” —Kwame Nkrumah There is a well-known song; ‘I love Nigeria, I no go lie, na inside am I go live and die’.
I rather prefer that Nigeria and the Nigerian condition improves positively, that its people prefer and choose to live and thrive in Nigeria and that they do not have to struggle to survive at home or make perilous journeys to make it abroad. Do not get me wrong, there are people who are thriving but at the expense of the majority. That is not right. We know Nigerians will thrive if the condition is right, those in the diaspora have proved that time and time again.
My former boss responded to his question; ‘my view is that patriotism should not be conditional on our country (Nigeria) being perfect any more than our love for our parents being conditional on their perfection. The Nigerian democratic project is a work in progress given that it has only achieved its independence in the last 59 years, most of which has been under military dictatorship. The countries of Europe against which Nigerians compare their country unfavourably have been autonomous for centuries during which the various ethnic groups have learnt to coexist as nation states’.
So comparing Nigeria to other countries does not negate the fact, that Nigeria could be better at 59 years after independence. There comes a time when one must stop blaming the past and make peace with the past circumstances and resolve whatever plagues us and move forward. The inability to move forward is the fault of all Nigerians, mostly the present and definitely those that have gone before. We can no longer blame the colonial past or yearn for the colonial glory days. We have to look within and not outside for the changes to happen. Where we yearn for order, structure and harmony for us to make the changes for that to happen. Rather we are praying for divine intervention or restructuring. If we cannot get it right now, we will not get right in any other permutations.
We have over time lowered our expectations .And we are always grateful for whatever we are given, we gratefully take crumbs rather than a whole loaf that we have worked for or what is deservedly ours. I was speaking to my younger sister’s friend, Sakeenah. She told me how happy she was that she receives her salary regularly. I asked why she said that. She said she is grateful that at least in Lagos state unlike other states where workers have not be paid in months.
I then told her should people be grateful for receiving their salaries on time when they have definitely worked for it? It seems to me that Nigerians continue to set the bar so low and have lost sight of what is normal.
My dear mother, often tells me that the power outages comes and goes at will and the whole street always erupts with joy when the power comes back on and equally they groan when the power goes off. This is 2019, Nigerians. We should expect better from our government and from ourselves and we cannot be begging for crumbs from the table. If we do not get what is expected then we have the right to demand why.
We cannot continue to sit on our hands and want real change to happen. It is not going to happen by prayers and will alone. I told my sister’s friend that perhaps, Nigerians need morality transplant. She laughed but I was serious. For far too long, we have had our heads stuck deep into the sand. Most of our people are desperate and would do anything to make a quick Naira including heinous crimes against others. The incessant abuse of power, tragic loss of lives, high rate of unemployment among young people, lack of opportunities, shocking substandard and decaying of institutions and infrastructures and grinding poverty. We have far too many who have nothing and very few who have far too much.
A society cannot thrive this way. We have to level the playing field. Having said that, I am hopeful. Hopeful, that a new generation of Nigerians will change the trajectory of Nigeria and Nigerians without the assistance of the old guards and corrupt politicians. Next year, it will be 60. Perhaps, the tide will turn for the better. We will have to work damn hard for the change.
From my archive. Are we there yet? – Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. ~Ambrose Redmoon.
I often wake up, morning after the night before and wonder how I missed a day or how the day missed me. That is how I feel on every October 1st. Nigerian Independence Day is often an underwhelming affair for me. Yet, it upsets me .You sometimes wish it will pass already. No fanfare, no ceremony and definitely no announcements and I am usually left with a sinking feeling that another year older and yet, same ole problems. What is there to celebrate? When I was growing up, we eagerly look forward to October the 1st.
This was many moons ago, as a school girl, our teachers would choose those who would best represent the school in the march past at the stadium on Independence Day. I can tell you that it was an honour to be chosen. It was hard work as you were drilled until you get March ready, marching time and time again under the glaring sun, we would march and salute to the imaginary representative until we get our march perfect. On the day itself, with uniform starched to an inch of its life and socks pulled to the regulated length, we make our way to the stadium. At the stadium, you check out the competition and you are determined to make your school proud. We were compfiercely competitive and we wanted to win, and make our school proud. That pride was carried through our adult lives.
So roll on the years. Nigeria at 55. Are we there yet? Can someone tell me if we have arrived at 55 at a destination worthy of the travel or have we missed our turning and that we are completely lost, without a navigator? These are serious times and we can ill afford to keep our heads perpetually buried in the sand. To be honest, I am tired of hearing the well-worn phrase “It is well”, No. it is not well. Look around you, it is not well and by whose definition, is it well? It is a delusional and lazy affront to think that by saying; it is well that it then, will become well”.
No, it is not going to be well until, we the people work to make it well. People want wealth without struggle and we have a misplaced sense of collective responsibility with a generous lashing of selfish determination to get rich quick and by all means. We are lost because we took our eyes off the road for far too long. So right now we have to get back to basics. The question every Nigerian should ask themselves is: what have you done to make Nigeria well or proud? Enough of the same lame excuses and for those who are doom rakers and the irrational, they will never get it; how can you reap dividend when you did not make the effort to sow! Nigeria does not owe anybody anything, on the other hand, we, Nigerians owe Nigeria so much. It is home. So why can we not make it habitable, governable, peaceful and workable? The bottom line is: it costs nothing except to work together to make it so.
I remember, when Andrew was pleading with Nigerians, leaving its shores, not to check out. Since then, many thousands of Nigerians have done exactly that. They do so for survival and a chance of better way of life. Abroad, Nigerians are making strides, most are at the top of their professions and are amongst the most educated in the diaspora. The call of home would be sweeter if only the corrupt structure and attitudes changes. If the country is conducive to real change, this will encourage the best of the best to come home and those at home are given the opportunity to develop and compete with the best in the world. It is the corrupt and vindictive practices that stops the progress of many and no one wants to do business with people who are always on the make. There is no doubt, the present situation has led a brain drain of talented Nigerians and of many Nigerians whose contribution could help rebuild the nation if not for these avaricious collectives
Frankly speaking, we should at 55, have much more to celebrate and looking back it should be with fond memory. Instead, we look back and then we lack enough milestones to be proud of. The independence celebration is muted because of lack of progress. Having read President Buhari’s address to the nation and his determination not to roll out the carpet of this years’ independence, I feel that this should be should be applauded. He has set the right tone for the country and the reality is that the money for the celebration could be put to use where it can make a significant difference. This should be a time of quiet contemplation. President Buhari’s address was conciliatory, honest, frank and inclusive; change is needed from within the people, the institutions, and change in the structure of governance. Every Nigerian doing his part in transforming the country.
He was very clear the direction of travel that would mark his government: “Change does not just happen. You and I and all of us must appreciate that we all have our part to play if we want to bring change about. We must change our lawless habits, our attitude to public office and public trust. We must change our unruly behavior in schools, hospitals, market places, motor parks, on the roads, in homes and offices. To bring about change, we must change ourselves by being law-abiding citizens. Happy Independence celebrations. Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” While we are at it, can we please petition for our former anthem back please? Well, there no harm in asking, either? Wishing you all well and for a better tomorrow for all Nigerians.
First Seen on Vanguard News, written by Urowayino Jeremiah.